Mexico City Says Ex-Government Changed Data to Hide Crime

Nacha Cattan

(Bloomberg) -- Mexico City’s government has been under attack by critics who say violence has spun out of control since a new, left-leaning administration took over in late 2018.

Run by Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum since December, the city now says that the previous administration extensively under-reported crime. As a result, while it appears that the crime rate has shot up in 2019 under new leadership, by some measures it’s actually fallen.

Reviews of tens of thousands of criminal files from 2018 show homicides didn’t rise by more than a third early this year, as previously reported, said Ernestina Godoy, Mexico City’s chief prosecutor. Violent crimes as a whole have dropped by 8% this year, she said.

On Saturday, Mexico City released figures showing homicides rose to 786 from January through June, up 16% from 678 a year earlier. Previous figures, collated before the results of the review, had shown a 36% year-on-year jump for January-May.

That’s still far too many, Godoy added. “This is not being done to justify our government,” she said. “We won’t deny the situation we are in.”

Registry ‘Distorted’

The new figures are bound to raise questions about how trustworthy any government’s crime statistics are in Mexico. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador won election in a landslide a year ago on promises to crack down on rampant corruption and violence. Sheinbaum, Mexico City’s first elected female mayor, is a member of his party and a close ally.

Godoy says United Nations officials oversaw the process of reclassifying the criminal cases.

“The registry was distorted,” Godoy said in an interview at her office. “In cases of rape they were classified as sexual harassment or abuse, or just injuries.”

Out of 214,000 files reviewed from 2018, more than 24,000 so-called high-impact criminal cases had been doctored, she said. Rape last year had actually been double the number reported by the administration of Miguel Angel Mancera, mayor since 2012.

A spokeswoman for Mancera, now a senator, said he was traveling and couldn’t immediately comment. He denied the allegations when they were first made by Godoy in January in more general terms.

(Updates with latest homicide figures in fourth paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Nacha Cattan in Mexico City at ncattan@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Juan Pablo Spinetto at jspinetto@bloomberg.net, Ros Krasny, Steve Geimann

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